Saturday, Aug 16, 2003
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By Our Special Correspondent
Addressing presspersons after the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, announced the "Sagar Mala" project as part of his Independence Day initiatives, the Shipping Minister, Shatrughan Sinha, said the project, to be undertaken as a public-private initiative, would cover all facets of maritime transport, including ports, shipping and inland waterways. The aim is to fully realise the potential of sea-borne trade and inland water transport systems which would play a catalytic role in the speedy development of the country. As a first step, integrated development of the Nhava Sheva and Kochi ports would begin by March next year. The cost involved in these projects is Rs. 7,500 crores.
On the massive investment envisaged in the project, Mr. Sinha said preliminary indications were that funds would not pose a problem. "A lot of interest is being shown by foreign investors and the private sector to undertake port development projects in the country. Our initial estimate is that the Government would not need to provide more than 10 to 15 per cent of the investment. Only in case of port-road-rail connectivity, the Government may have to step in with some more investment,'' the Minister said.
Mr. Sinha confirmed that there was "some preliminary thinking'' about a possible cess on cargo passing through ports to finance the `Sagar Mala' project. It could be on the lines of the petrol and diesel cess to finance the National Highway Development Project.
Giving out the details of the `Sagar Mala', the Minister said it envisaged setting up of new ports along the coastline of the country where the required draught was available. The Centre, along with the State Governments, would create the basic facilities at these places and then offer them to the private sector for further development and operation. To cater to the anticipated increase in traffic at ports which was likely to touch 565 million tonnes by 2006-07 against the actual traffic of 412 million tonnes handled in 2002-03, existing ports would be upgraded to meet the emerging demands of maritime trade.
Also, a world class container terminal would be developed at Vallarpadam in Kochi to attract transhipment of cargo. In addition, ports at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (near Mumbai) and Chennai would be upgraded to make them hub ports with world class facilities.
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